Marquette Poll: Evers Leading Walker

By John Forester | September 18, 2018

The new Marquette Law School Poll finds Democrat Tony Evers surging ahead of Republican Governor Scott Walker 49 percent to 44 percent among likely voters.  The poll also finds U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin expanding her lead on Republican Leah Vukmir.  For more coverage on the new poll, check out the news coverage from the Wisconsin State Journal.

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Evers Budget Request: $1.4 Billion K-12 Increase

By John Forester | September 17, 2018

From WisPolitics:

State Superintendent Tony Evers is asking for an additional $1.4 billion in state money over the next two years to fund K-12 education, more than double the boost schools got in the 2017-19 budget.

The request comes as Evers challenges Gov. Scott Walker this fall with education funding one of the key issues.

The current budget pumped an additional $648 million into K-12 education, the largest increase in a decade. Evers is seeking a boost of more than 10 percent over 2019-21 even as Walker directed state agencies to keep spending flat in their budget proposals.

Evers is proposing an overall increase in school state aids of nearly $2.5 billion. But that would be offset by re-directing $1.1 billion that now goes into the school levy tax credit, resulting in the request for $1.4 billion in new money.

The proposed increase in aids includes an additional $606.1 million to increase special education funding, which would more than double the current reimbursement rate.

DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said the agency’s proposal would restore the state’s commitment to fund two-thirds of education costs. The state is at 65.8 percent for the 2018-19 school year, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

McCarthy also said the impact on property taxes would be neutral under the proposal.

Agency budget requests are due to the Department of Administration on Monday. DPI provided a document that included proposed spending levels. But that document didn’t include full details of the budget proposal.

See Wisconsin State Journal coverage here.

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145 Districts Receive Sparsity Aid payment; DPI Proposes Aid Increase

By John Forester | September 13, 2018

The state’s small, sparsely populated school districts are sharing $25 million in aid payments that can be used to offset any costs the district incurs in educating its students. Sparsity aid is paid on the third Monday in September.  For more information, including a list of the districts receiving sparsity aid, see the DPI news release.  In the release, DPI also indicates they are seeking an increase in sparsity aid in the 2019-21 state budget.

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Evers Proposes New Money for Large Urban Districts

By John Forester | September 12, 2018

From …

DPI Superintendent Tony Evers wants to add new money to the state’s five largest districts to help close the achievement gap, including aid to expand summer school and create grants to fund the start up and expansion of 3K.

An overview posted at the Department of Public Instruction website notes the five — Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine — educate 20 percent of the state’s students.

Some of the provisions include:

*$5 million to expand summer school grants.

*$5 million for the 3K grants.

*$1.5 million to enhance payments for National Board Certified Teachers.

*Providing $15,000 per educator who teaches in high poverty schools in the five districts.

*$1 million to support learning lab projects in the five communities.

*$500,000 to expand a program that provides principal training, coaching and support in the districts.

The proposal comes as the state’s achievement gap seeped into the guv’s race this week as Gov. Scott Walker and Evers exchanged jabs on the issue.

Agency budget requests are due to the Walker administration next week, and Evers also has already said he plans to seek an additional $600 million for the special education categorical aid, more than doubling the current reimbursement rate, and about $60 million for mental health services.

The DPI website also includes overviews of other priorities in the upcoming budget proposal, including returning the state to its previous commitment to fund two-thirds of all school costs and increasing the reimbursement rate for bilingual-bicultural aid nearly fourfold.

See the DPI overviews here.

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SAA Submits Questions to Walker, Evers Campaigns

By John Forester | September 6, 2018

Earlier today, the SAA asked the Walker and Evers campaigns to respond in writing to several questions on current education issues impacting Wisconsin public schools and public school children.  Our intention is to forward the candidate responses to the entire SAA membership as soon as they are received.

We have asked the candidates to provide their written responses by Tuesday, September 25, 2018.  Stay tuned.

See the questions here.

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Second Round School Safety Grant Applications Due Today

By John Forester | August 30, 2018

From …

Schools and districts have until the end of today to apply for the second round of school safety grants through the state Department of Justice.

Earlier this month, the agency announced that 688 schools and districts said they’re intending to apply for the second round of funding — approximately $48 million — to shore up mental health initiatives in schools, among other things.

The agency has said the funding will be awarded on a per-student basis according to student enrollment figures collected by the Department of Public Instruction. Each school or district will receive approximately $55 per child, per DOJ, but an applicant won’t get less than $10,000 or more than $2.5 million.

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General Election Sprint Begins with Attacks

By John Forester | August 15, 2018

From …

Both sides wasted little time in going after Dem guv nominee Tony Evers and GOP Senate nominee Leah Vukmir with new ads signaling the sprint to the November general election.

The state GOP announced a TV and digital ad accusing Evers, the state superintendent, of failing to keep students safe.

The spot follows a line of attack the state GOP has already used on Evers over a Middleton teacher who kept his license in 2014 after viewing pornographic images at work and showing them to his female co-workers. Evers has argued state law didn’t give him the power to revoke his license; the law has since been changed.

The state GOP said the initial buy was about $500,000 with more on digital. The liberal One Wisconsin Now, which tracks TV ads, said the party is spending $414,000 on broadcast TV in Green Bay, La Crosse/Eau Claire, Wausau, Madison and Milwaukee, as well as cable.

The narrator opens the spot saying Evers knew about a teacher viewing and sharing “pornographic material at school” as well as making “sexual remarks about the bodies of middle school girls.”

“Yet despite calls from parents and school officials, Tony Evers sided with the union and refused to revoke the teacher’s license,” the narrator adds.

The narrator then closes the spot, “As Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Evers is supposed to keep our children safe. But he didn’t.”

See the ad here.

The liberal American Bridge, meanwhile, is launching a digital ad that quotes Kevin Nicholson calling Vukmir a “career politician.”

The spot opens with text on the screen reading “Wisconsin Republicans say … You can’t trust Leah Vukmir.”

A voice says Vukmir is the “consummate insider who’s been running for various offices for 20 years.”

It then quotes Nicholson from various interviews saying the more career politicians who are sent to Washington, “the more problems we seem to have” and knocking Vukmir’s talk about her voting record in the Legislature, saying it’s “not enough.”

“That’s a career politician’s track record, and people should assume that it will go to Washington and become part of a system, which is filled with career politicians,” Nicholson says.

The final screen reads, “They don’t trust Leah Vukmir. Neither can Wisconsin.”

See the digital ad here.

Evers won the eight-way Dem primary with 41.8 percent of the vote, while Vukmir garnered 49 percent.

Evers’ nearest rival was Mahlon Mitchell, head of the statewide firefighters union, at 16.4 percent, while business consultant Kevin Nicholson hit 42.9 percent.

Nicholson benefited from outside spending by a series of independent groups that were backed by Illinois businessman Dick Uihlein.

One of those groups, Restoration PAC, congratulated Vukmir, but didn’t expressly commit to continue spending in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race.

“We congratulate Leah Vukmir on a hard fought primary victory and urge all Republicans to unite behind her candidacy,” PAC founder Doug Truax told in a statement. “Restoration PAC remains opposed to ultra-liberal Senator Tammy Baldwin and we are committed to defeating her in November.”

Two lawmakers lost their primaries, while two survived intraparty challenges.

Attorney Marisabel Cabrera had 1,982 votes, or 64.1 percent, to 1,110 votes, or 35.9 percent for Dem Rep. Josh Zepnick, who was hit with allegations he kissed two women without their consent at Dem Party events.

In the 12th AD, MPS teacher LaKeshia Myers had 3,709 votes, or 59.3 percent, to 2,545 votes, or 40.7 percent, for Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, Reps. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, and John Spiros, R-Marshfield, survived their primary challenges.

See more in the Election Blog on yesterday’s races here.

More votes were cast in the Dem guv primary than in the GOP U.S. Senate race.

According to unofficial returns, 537,840 votes were cast for the Dem guv candidates.

Meanwhile, 442,567 voters turned out for the GOP U.S. Senate race. There also were more votes cast in the GOP guv primary even though Gov. Scott Walker had token opposition; 456,007 votes were cast in that race.

See full results here.

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DOJ Unveiling 2nd Round of Safety Grants

By John Forester | July 24, 2018

From …

The state Department of Justice is unveiling the second round of the school safety grant program today aimed at bolstering mental health initiatives in schools, among other things.

The announcement comes as the agency has weighed options for spending the remaining $43.4 million of state funding under the newly created $100 million school safety grant program. During the first round of applications, which closed in June, 735 schools and districts requested $56.6 million in total funding for building improvements and other safety initiatives.

While the second round of funding will continue to focus on additional physical security upgrades, it’ll also prioritize “advanced initiatives to bolster student mental health” and creating School Safety Intervention teams, according to the DOJ.

The grants will be awarded starting in October.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage here.

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Evers: DOJ Should Use Remaining Safety Money for School Mental Health

By John Forester | July 24, 2018

From …

State schools Superintendent Tony Evers says the state Department of Justice should use the remaining $40 million-plus in school safety grant funding to prioritize mental health.

Evers’ comments came at a news conference yesterday at Schenk Elementary School in Madison, where he also unveiled the Department of Public Instruction’s 2019-21 budget request surrounding mental health initiatives.

Under the newly created $100 million school safety grant program, 735 schools and districts requested $56.6 million in total funding. Assuming all the money is allocated as requested, there’ll be some $43.4 million of state funding leftover. DOJ officials have previously said the agency would make a determination about how to use that funding after consulting with School Safety Director Kristen Devitt.

But Evers, who’s also running for guv, stressed the need to use the leftover funding to ensure students can be in “a place mentally and physically where they can learn.”

That means using the funding to implement more statewide training and support for young people, as well as other priorities he highlighted as part of his budget request today.

The budget request includes $5 million in specialized support for school mental health training; an additional $44 million in mental health categorical aid to match district funding when hiring for pupil services staff; and $14 million for expanding collaborative grants with community mental health providers to give students access to mental health services.

In all, Evers’ budget proposal will include more than $60 million over the next biennium for mental health services.

“This is a critical issue,” Evers said of using safety grant funding for mental health initiatives. “The fact that some of it was left behind I think was reflective of the kind of narrowness of the scope (of the grants).”

A state DOJ spokeswoman said that mental health training has been a “cornerstone of DOJ’s grant program from Day 1,” noting that to qualify for the money, school staff will have to have training in trauma-informed care before the end of the 2018-19 school year or show staff have already received such training.

Evers also said the mental health aspect of DPI’s budget request is the first of a handful of recommendations the agency is releasing over the coming weeks. He said he’s planning to submit DPI’s full budget request in September or October.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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DPI Announces Mental Health Grants

By John Forester | July 24, 2018

Sixty-four school districts and consortiums are sharing $3.25 million in state grant funding to provide school-based mental health services.

Additional information is available in the Department of Public Instruction news release here.

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